Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pirates hijack tanker off Nigerian coast: officials

11 October 2011

LAGOS — Pirates have hijacked an oil tanker and its crew off the Nigerian coast, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said on Tuesday.

The pirates boarded the tanker, believed to be a Marshall Islands-flagged vessel, on Saturday, IMB manager Cyrus Mody told AFP from London.

"The vessel is still under captivity...We believe the crew is still on board," according to the official of the piracy watchdog, who added that there was "no indication that the crew has been taken away".

Soon after the attack, IMB was informed that the crew members, whose exact number is unknown, "were OK", but the organisation has had no news of them since, Mody noted.

According to a report on the IMB website, the attack took place around 90 nautical miles south of Lagos, Nigeria's economic capital.

A spokesman for the Nigerian navy said that the tanker was the MT Cape Bird carrying 30,000 tonnes of fuel.

"We have no information yet on the crew members," said Kabir Aliyu, adding that the navies of Nigeria and neighbouring Benin were looking for the tanker.

The coast of Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer, is reputed to be dangerous, with pirates hijacking ships, mostly loaded with crude, from the oil-rich Niger Delta, for sale on the region's lucrative black market.

On October 2, pirates armed with automatic weapons fired upon and boarded a chemical tanker off neighbouring Benin before stealing cash, the latest in a wave of such attacks off west Africa, IMB said.

The coast of Benin has seen some 20 piracy incidents this year compared with none last year. Piracy has long been a problem off Nigeria.

Benin and Nigeria launched joint sea patrols last month to tackle the surge in piracy that has raised alarm in the shipping industry, with attacks seeing crews held hostage and fuel stolen.

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